There were a lot of great things that came out of the Women’s March on Washington. This viral photo of a woman named Angela Peoples holding a sign that said “White Women Voted For Trump” while a group of white women take a selfie in the background is absolutely not one of them.
Peoples did an interview with TheRoot.com talking about why she went to the march and why she brought the sign with her. This is what she said when asked how people reacted to her sign “Most were saying, “Not this white woman,” or “No one I know!” I’d say, “[Fifty-three percent] of white women voted for Trump. That means someone you know, someone who is in close community with you, voted for Trump. You need to organize your people.”
Her number is correct. 53 percent of white women did vote for Trump. Her sign, on the other hand, is self righteous bullshit. Let’s take a moment to analyze the things she said in that quote.
- White women need to organize themselves: The protest Peoples brought her sign to was primarily organized by white women. It was in fact criticized for being a white-centric feminist protest, despite the fact that the theme of demanding equal rights for all people really does apply to everyone. A white woman in Honolulu horrified with the election results made the original facebook post, and a bunch of other women, many of whom were white, then coordinated the parking and permits and speakers and publicity that allowed this to be a successful event. This does not mean this was a white protest, or that white people have any claim to it. On the contrary, I would argue that this was a successful protest for all people, one where the commonality of our humanity rose up to declare itself in favor of freedom and equality.
- Someone you know who’s close to you voted for Trump: What kind of statement is this? We, as a species, make our friends through shared interests and values. Our communities are defined by the people we interact with, and since it’s been heavily reported that communities are become more polarized and ideologically homogeneous, it’s a decent bet that the Trump voters and feminist marchers aren’t quite in the same crowd. Would it be offensive if someone assumed that Ms. Peoples hung out with black people, just because they were black, and for no other reason? Absolutely. This goes the same for every white women that she just assumed hung out with Trump voters because they were white.
Here’s the thing. White people aren’t great at including everyone in their movements of their own volition. Feminism without intersectionality is a problem, because it’s important to advance the causes of all groups without making progress for one group of people at the expense of others. But showing up to a protest for unity with a sign that blames an entire group of people, half of which did not do the thing you’re blaming them for? That’s not intersectional or inclusive. That serves no purpose. Peoples claimed that she was trying to inspire white women to get organized and get protesting at a protest filled with white women organized and protesting. All she was doing was creating white guilt.
Everyone needs to work together to continue the fight for justice and equality for all people. This means that white people need to pay attention to what everyone else is saying and do their very best to empathize with struggles we will not understand and help in the ways we can. It also means that people need to stop blaming white people as a whole for the actions of some of us. Because what purpose does that serve, other than making the people on your side (that’s me) resentful of being on the same team.
I’m not gonna stop fighting for equality for everyone. But I don’t see how successful of a recruiting method making me feel guilty and ashamed for the actions of others might be.